Fittipaldi Automotive

Fittipaldi Automotive

Fittipaldi Automotive, sometimes called Copersucar after its first major sponsor, was the only Formula One motor racing team and constructor ever to be based in Brazil. It was formed during 1974 by racing driver Wilson Fittipaldi and his younger brother, double world champion Emerson, with money from the Brazilian sugar and alcohol cooperative Copersucar. In 1976 Emerson surprised the motor racing world by leaving the title-winning McLaren team to drive for the unsuccessful family outfit. Future world champion Keke Rosberg took his first podium finish in Formula One with the team.

The team was based in São Paulo, almost 6,000 miles (10,000 km) away from the centre of the world motor racing industry in the UK, before moving to Reading, UK during 1974. It participated in 119 grands prix between 1975 and 1982, entering a total of 156 cars. It achieved 3 podiums and scored 44 championship points.


Wilson Fittipaldi was a midfield pay driver with Brabham in Formula One in 1972 and 1973. Unsatisfied with his treatment by the team, he talked to his younger brother and double world champion, Emerson towards the end of 1973 and they decided to set up their own Formula One team in Brazil. The Fittipaldi brothers had already set up businesses building customer karts and Formula Vee cars in Brazil in the 1960s, as well as a successful custom car accessory business [ "Hall of Fame - Emerson Fittipaldi" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] It was through these ventures that Emerson had achieved his successful move to the European racing scene in 1969. During the 1970s it was not unusual for a driver to design or buy a chassis, attach the readily available Cosworth DFV engine and Hewland gearbox and enter World Championship races. "(See Hill and Surtees)". By the early 1980s the DFV was no longer competitive and supplies of the new turbocharged engines were far more limited.

The 1974 season was spent setting up the new team, which was to have a strong Brazilian flavour. Wilson was able to persuade Brazilian sugar and alcohol cooperative Copersucar to sponsor the team. McLaren driver Emerson acted as a consultant to the team. The Copersucar-branded car was designed by Brazilian Richard Divila, who had worked for Fittipaldi Empreendimentos designing Formula Vee cars, and later for the European Formula Two Team Bardahl Fittipaldi, modifying their Lotus and Brabham chassis. ["Richard Divila" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] ["Ricardo Divila" [] Retrieved 7 March 2006] National aerospace company Embraer was also involved, supplying materials to the fledgling team and providing wind-tunnel time. Mexican Jo Ramirez was hired as team manager. [ Jo Ramirez (2005): [ Memoirs of a Racing Man] . Haynes Group.] The team was initially based in Brazil, almost 6,000 miles (10,000 km) away from the United Kingdom, a bold move given the overwhelmingly British nature of Formula One technology from the 1960s onwards. The long and low Copersucar FD01, with bulbous bodywork enclosing the engine and unusual rear-mounted radiators, painted in silver with rainbow markings on the flanks, was unveiled in October 1974 at the Federal Senate in Brasilia in the presence of President Ernesto Geisel. Like Brabham's BT series of cars (Brabham and Tauranac), the car's FD designation reflected the initials of the driver and the designer (Fittipaldi and Divila).

Racing history

Copersucar-Fittipaldi (1975 - 1977)

"See 1975 season, 1976 season, and 1977 season for season summaries"

The team, initially known as Copersucar-Fittipaldi, did not have great success in its first racing season in 1975. Wilson crashed in chassis FD01 on lap 12 of their first race, the Argentine Grand Prix, which his brother went on to win in his McLaren. Chassis numbers FD02 and FD03, used for the rest of the year, were the same design as the original car but were fitted with a succession of more conventional aerodynamic treatments. [ "Copersucar-Fittipaldi models" [] Retrieved 8 March 2006] Wilson was the sole driver and managed only five finishes, the highest of which was a 10th and last place at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and failed to qualify on three occasions. Italian Arturo Merzario did no better when he took over the chassis for his home Grand Prix after Wilson broke two bones in his hand in a practice crash at the Austrian Grand Prix. [Barrie Gill "John Player Motorsport Yearbook 1976 - The World Championship 1975" page 78. Queen Anne Press Ltd ISBN 0-362-00254-1] Despite the lack of success, the tiny team achieved a coup for the following year: Emerson Fittipaldi joined the team from McLaren, with whom he had taken his second Driver's Championship in 1974. His brother stepped down from driving to look after the management of the team.

Emerson commented: "I am aware that I will virtually have no chance of winning the world title next season....It will be a very difficult beginning, but I am very enthusiastic and I am certain that with everybody's effort we will have the first positive results in the second half of next year. I think that in the medium term of one or two years Brazil will have one of the best Formula One teams in the world." ["Fittipaldi eager to put Brazil on world map" (November 27 1975) "The Times" p. 10]

Emerson was the team's main driver in 1976 although Brazilian Ingo Hoffmann joined him for four races. Fittipaldi qualified the new FD04 fifth for his debut, at Interlagos. In the race he could only finish 13th – a result which was more representative of the rest of the season during which he scored only three points. The qualifying result remained the best the team would ever achieve. The experiment of basing the team in Brazil did not last - it was too far from their engine and gearbox suppliers and did not have the large community of expert component manufacturers available in the UK. Although the first FD04 was built there, future cars would be built at the team's established base in Reading, UK, in what would become known as 'motorsport valley'. ["Motorsport Industry Association - About the Industry" [] Retrieved 19 March 2006] ["Motorsport Valley" [] Retrieved 19 March 2006]

The team continued with the same setup for 1977. Fittipaldi was able to score several 4th and 5th places during the year. Hoffman only appeared twice at the beginning of the year, finishing 7th at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The new F5, liveried in yellow rather than silver, (Divila having left the role of technical director, the 'D' was dropped from the designation) was introduced mid-season.

Fittipaldi Automotive (1978 - 1979)

"See 1978 season and 1979 season for season summaries"

While it was not a great success in 1977, in 1978 the F5A, modified to implement the principles of ground effect demonstrated to excellent effect by Lotus, allowed the former World Champion to score several good results. The best of these was a competitive second place, after fighting with Mario Andretti and Gilles Villeneuve, [Reutemann turns on heat that is too much for other's comfort (January 30 1978) "The Times" page 8] at the team's perennial happy hunting ground in Brazil. Fittipaldi finished the year with 17 points and the team, now known as Fittipaldi Automotive, [ "Fittipaldi team name history" [] Retrieved 1 March 2006] came 7th in the Constructor's table – one place ahead of Emerson's old team McLaren.

The 1979 season saw the promise of the previous year fade away. Implementing ground effect successfully was becoming crucial to success on the track but understanding of the phenomenon was in its infancy and Ralph Bellamy's F6 was a failure on the track. ["Fittipaldi Automotive" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] Fittipaldi was again the team's only driver, although Alex Ribeiro was run in the non-championship race which inaugurated the Imola circuit that year, ["Jesus Saves Racing" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] before attempting and failing to qualify a car for the end of season North American championship races.

kol Fittipaldi Team (1980)

"See 1980 season for season summary"

At the end of 1979 Copersucar decided to end their sponsorship. ["Copersucar" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] The team bought the remains of close neighbour Wolf Racing, becoming a two car operation for the first time. The team was renamed Skol Team Fittipaldi for the 1980 season to reflect new sponsorship from Skol Brasil (now an AmBev brand). Emerson and Wolf Racing driver Keke Rosberg raced the first part of the season with reworked Wolf chassis from the previous year. The cars, designated F7s, brought a third place for each of the drivers before being replaced by the less successful F8. The design team that year was headed by Harvey Postlethwaite, another asset gained from Wolf, and also included very young chief aerodynamicist Adrian Newey [" [ Debrett's People of Today] " (May 2006) Accessed 5 May 2006] [" [ Official: Adrian Newey joins Red Bull F1] " (Nov. 2005)] - both were later designers of championship winning cars for other teams.

Fittipaldi Automotive (1981 - 1982)

"See 1981 season and 1982 season for season summaries"

Emerson Fittipaldi decided to retire from racing at the end of 1980. He has since said that his last two years in Formula One were very unhappy: "I was too involved in the problems of trying to make the team work, and I neglected my marriage and my personal life", although at the time he cited colleagues' deaths as his reason. [Fittipaldi to Retire (December 12 1980) "The Times" page 20] He was only 33, but had been racing in Formula One for a decade. He had failed to finish seven of the last ten races that year and had several times been outpaced by his Finnish team-mate. He moved into the management of the team ["Emerson Fittipaldi" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] and young Brazilian Chico Serra replaced him for 1981. The team, which reverted to the name of Fittipaldi Automotive as Skol sponsorship was lost again, entered a sharp decline from 1981 onwards. Postlethwaite left for Ferrari early in the year and the team once again raced updated variants of the previous season's chassis, using tyres from Michelin, Avon and Pirelli - including one race in which the two cars were on different brands. ["Fittipaldi 8C" [] Retrieved 7 March 2006] Rosberg did manage to finish a lapped 4th at the non-championship FOCA South African Grand Prix at the start of the year ["The one that didn't count" [] Retrieved 20 March 2006] ("see FISA-FOCA War"), but after that the drivers recorded a succession of DNQs and retirements. When they did finish they were normally at the back of the field and scored no points that year.

The Finn moved to Williams for 1982, where he would win the Drivers Championship - the only man ever to do so having scored no points the previous year. The team continued with a single F8 for Serra - often using a chassis that had raced through most of the 1981 season ["Fittipaldi F8C/3" [] Retrieved 8 March 2006] - and scored a final point from a sixth place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, although only after Niki Lauda had been disqualified. A final new car - the outwardly identical F9, ["Fittipaldi Models" [] Retrieved 8 March 2006] penned by the returning Divila and introduced at the French Grand Prix that year ["Better luck in stock" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006] - failed to improve matters. The team went into receivership at the end of the 1982 season and closed its doors. ["O sonho que virou pó" [] Retrieved 12 April 2006 (In Portuguese)]

Aurora Formula One

A Fittipaldi F5A chassis run by RAM Racing (in the guise of 'Mopar Ultramar Racing Team'} took the make's only race win in the Aurora Formula One UK championship at the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch on 15 April 1979 in the hands of Guy Edwards, albeit actually 7th on the road behind six cars from the world championship which were not entered in the Aurora series. Edwards and team-mate Bernard de Dryver scored other good results in the series, including a string of podium finishes. [Autocourse Formula One 1979-1980 Aurora Formula One]

Valentino Musetti, an Italian stuntman, raced an updated F5B variant in the 1980 Aurora Formula One UK championship, but with less success than the previous year. ["Val Musetti" [] Retrieved 10 April 2006]

Notable Drivers

For much of its history Fittipaldi Automotive was entirely focussed around Emerson Fittipaldi. Emerson was a double world champion renowned for a smooth and quick style when he joined the family team. Although his older brother drove in the team's first season, the suggestion that Emerson might drive for the team was always in the air and only a year later he cancelled contract discussions with his then team McLaren at a very late stage and signed with Fittipaldi. Although he remained capable of front-running performances, during his time with Fittipaldi Automotive he became an inconsistent performer. On several occasions team manager Jo Ramirez berated his driver after a sudden burst of speed indicated that he had not been driving to his full potential. By 1980 Fittipaldi's team mate Keke Rosberg thought him long past his best, and found him demotivated. Emerson retired at the end of that year after six full seasons with the family team. Like fellow world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s five year stint with the BAR team set up for him with BAT money in 1998, the partnership ended the front running Formula One career of a young and highly competitive driver, although he would later build a very successful career in top level American single seater racing in the CART series.The young Finn Keke Rosberg was struggling to get into a competitive seat when he joined Fittipaldi for the 1980 season. He had previously driven two disjointed seasons for the Theodore Racing, ATS and Walter Wolf Racing teams but although he had won a non-championship race with Theodore, he had scored no world championship points. Fittipaldi bought the remains of Wolf at the end of 1979. Rosberg reports that Emerson, who had not previously had a full time team-mate while at Fittipaldi Automotive, wanted another Brazilian driver but was persuaded by ex-Wolf employees Peter Warr and Harvey Postlethwaite to offer the number two drive to the Finn. Rosberg himself saw a full season in Formula One with Fittipaldi as a step "towards victory". He was competitive alongside Emerson during his first season, scoring a podium in his first race with the team, the 1980 Argentine Grand Prix. Rosberg passed Emerson on the track in his second race for the team, and claims that from then on there was friction between Fittipaldi and himself. During his disastrous second season with the team, during which not a single point was scored, Rosberg engineered his release from his contract. He went to Williams, where he would win the drivers world championship the next season. [Rosberg, Keke & Botsford, Keith (1985) [ Keke An Autobiography] Stanley Paul pp. 112 - 118 ISBN 0-09-156180-9]

Complete Formula One results

(Note: grands prix in bold denote Pole Positions.)

World Championship Results


Non Championship results



* Lyons, Pete (24 October 1974) 'The new F1 Fittipaldi' "Autosport p.10 (Haymarket Publications)"
* Karl Ludvigsen (2002) [ 'Emerson Fittipaldi'] Haynes Group. ISBN 1-85960-837-X

All Formula One race and championship results are taken from:
* "Official Formula 1 Website. Archive: Results for 1972 – 1982 seasons" [] Retrieved 28 February 2006
* "The Formula One Archives - Non-Championship & Aurora" [] Retrieved 23 March 2006

Further reading

* [] Details 2004 restoration of the Copersucar-Fittipaldi FD01 and FD04 by Dana Corporation's Brazilian arm. With pictures and video, including some original footage. Retrieved 23 March 2006. (In Portuguese)
*" A história da equipe Fittipaldi (também conhecida como Copersucar)" Accessed 7 March 2006 (In Portuguese)
* [] A Fittipaldi Automotive F5A competes in the European Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship. Brief details and pictures. Retrieved 1 July 2006.

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